Cell phone tracking bill awaits Governor Haslam's action - WKRN News 2

Cell phone tracking bill awaits Gov. Haslam's action

Posted: Updated: May 08, 2014 08:56 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A bill where cell phone privacy collided with personal safety awaits action by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

The measure pushed by Wilson County State Senator Mae Beavers calls for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before officers look at cell phone data.

"We are supposed to be free from unwarranted search and seizure," said the lawmaker earlier this year while referencing the 4th Amendment.

Law enforcement groups such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, along with sheriff and police associations, strongly voiced concerns about how the bill was originally written.

Those concerns stemmed from cell phones dropped or found at crimes or left behind in missing person's cases.

"There very well could be specific information about the whereabouts of someone we are trying to locate on a cell phone," said TBI spokesperson Josh DeVine.

Law enforcement argued that getting a search warrant or help from cell phone providers could take hours, when minutes to find kidnapping victims or missing persons are critical.

Police chiefs and local sheriffs made a trip to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to find a balance.

"We were very glad that they heard our concerns and ultimately put in a couple of changes that would make this more doable for us," added DeVine.

Those changes or amendments to the original bill gave police power to look at cell phone data without a warrant during a list of defined "exigent" or emergency circumstances.

Those circumstances ranged from preventing “imminent danger to the life of the owner or user" to preventing "imminent danger to the public." 

An amendment also took out language that officers would face a misdemeanor if they look at cell phone data without a search warrant.

Now it’s up to the governor to either sign the bill, veto it or let it became law without his signature.
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